Old Jerusalem

Trip Start Nov 10, 2011
Trip End Dec 03, 2011

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Mt. Zion Hotel

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

With poor internet connections, an iPad that is not designed for doing anything more than emailing or surfing the net, and a hubby who writes lengthy emails to his family so I have limited time with the iPad, this blog is getting further and further behind. I apologize and I am going to try to get caught up over the next few days.

Today was a busy day, catching the bus at 7:15 and not returning to the hotel until 4:00 p.m. We learned so much, I'm not sure there are enough brain cells between us to absorb all of the information. Our guide, David, took a little getting used to after our incredible Jordanian guide, but he is growing on us. David is not warm & fuzzy, but he is a walking encyclopedia about religion and history. 

Old Jerusalem's history dates to more than 3,000 years ago, although the current street plan dates largely from the Byzantine era, and the encircling walls from the 16th centuray. Within its walls, the Old City is divided into different quarters -- Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian.

My brain is on information overload but I will do my best to caption the pictures correctly. So, Miss Amy, this is where you sign in and upload the pics.  

The area south of the Western Wall and Harem ssh-Sharif is one of the most important archaeological sites in all Jerusalem.  Excavations, ongoing here since 1968, have uncovered remains dating back to the First and Second Temple periods and through Byzantine times to the Omayyad era.  

The Western Wall or Wailing Wall -- men on the left, women on the right -- is Judaism's holiest site.  It is believed to be part of the great Temple enclosure built by Herod in the 1st Century BCE. The plaza in front of the Wall is busy, day and night, with supplicants at prayer.  The wall is part of the retaining wall of the Temple Mount and was built by Herod the Great during his expansion of the Temple enclosure.  The huge lower stones are Herodian, while those higher up date from Islamic times.  Wilson's Arch can be seen in the left corner.

From Wilson's Arch, archaeologists have dug the Western Wall Tunnel to explore the wall's foundations (or to piss off the Muslims). It follows the base of the outside face of the Temple Wall along a Herodian street, below today's street level, and emerges on the Via Dolorosa. Our guide, David, who is Jewish, told us tensions are high because the Muslims are concerned the digging will weaken the foundation. 

Dome of the Rock

Beautiful! One of the first and greatest examples of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock was build in 688-91 CE. Intended to proclaim the superiority of Islam and provide an Islamic focal point in the Holy City, the majestic structure now dominates Jerusalem and has become a symbol of the city. This is not a mosque, but houses the rock where it is believed Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son (Isaac to Jews and Christians, Ishmael to Muslims), where the Prophet Muhammed left the earth on his Night Journey, and where the Holy of Holies was located in Herod's Temple.

Christian Quarter

 The 14 Stations of the Cross are each designated by small chapels. We did not visit every one. Some are quite ornate, others very simple, all small. The Via Dolorosa traditionally traces the last steps of Jesus from where he was tried to Golgotha, where he was crucified, and the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he is said to have been buried. There is no historical basis for the route, which has changed over the centuries. However, the tradition is so strong that numerous pilgrims walk the route each year. 

Golgotha, which in Hebrew means "Place of the Skulls", was translated into Latin as Calvary. It is very difficult to imagine what this looked like when Jesus was crucified. It was a hillside made of bedrock where thousands of people were crucified by the Romans. Skulls must have been lying all over the place which is what gave it its name.
Stone of Unction -- this is where the anointing and wrapping of Christ's body after his death has been commemorated since medieval times. The present stone dates from 1810. All of these holy sites have been, to me, ruined by all the ornamentation and I didn't feel a thing except that Christians have violated what should have been preserved as they were in Christ's time. There is enough historical evidence to believe the tradition that these places might be the actual spots, but . . . . Because I study religion from a historical perspective and because my brain is much too logical, I am somewhat skeptical of many things. Yesterday's trip to the Sea of Galilee meant much more to me.

We finished our day by walking to the German section of town that is not far from our hotel. We skipped lunch so we were hungry for dinner about 4:30 p.m. We are becoming tired of the same ol', same ol' Middle Eastern buffet cuisine. Not fans of buffets to begin with, and that is about all we've had for two weeks. Not quite desperate enough to gag down McDonald's but we did want a hamburger. We found BurgersBar and had a delectible, old fashioned American hamburger with French fries. Almost heaven. We also found a restaurant that will be serving Thanksgiving dinner. Yippee!! 

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